In a powerful moment in the post-apocalyptic “The Road,” the Man ( Viggo Mortensen) washes the freshly spilled brains of an attacker from the Boy’s (Kodi Smit-McPhee) face and hair in a chilly stream.

“That was really a turning point, because it was early in the shoot, and it was a big scene. I’d been talking to Kodi about shock, how your system shuts down and you’re numb to everything. But when you come out of shock, it’s like a freight train hitting you. All the emotions flood in. So we had a great little conversation about that, and he went off.

But when we were doing the scene, he was also very sensitive to cold, and the river kind of pushed him over the edge, to the point where he started to cry for real. There was that terrible moment of, ‘What do I do? Do I call cut or do I be the ruthless director and go on?’ Kodi answered that dilemma for me, because he actually started doing the lines. So he was playing the scene, even though the tears were real. It was an intensely moving moment.

After calling cut, [he and Viggo] kept their embrace, and to the credit of Andy McPhee, who is Kodi’s father, he did the most extraordinary thing. He was going to go in and take his son. Even though Viggo was holding Kodi, he was looking to [Andy], ready to hand him over, but Andy stepped back. He said it was an agonizing decision for him afterward, but he knew that it was also critical to the bonding between them. I think that changed the dynamic. Really, it deepened it, from that day on.

-- Sam Adams

JASON REITMAN “Up in the Air”

“I think the scene of the actors George, Vera and Anna, sitting around a table talking about what each woman looks for in a man at age 23 versus at age 37. That was the one. I think it’s right at the heart of the movie, and shooting it was great. I think it’s the scene I’m most proud of in my entire career. It talks about all of it. The change in expectations [as you grow older], and it also shows how we just change as people. What we want is different from one moment to the other. Announcing life philosophies is kind of fruitless because they’ll change within a year.”

As for favorite characters, Reitman and Clooney are of a similar mind.

Clooney: “I like characters who can’t get their footing. They’ve gotten away with not playing by what other people consider the rules. Suddenly, they’re out and forced to play by those rules, and they’re off their game.”

Reitman: “It is almost like I like to start with an ideal. A guy who has kind of a strange point of view on life, and then you challenge the perspective as much as possible. It is almost like a scientist proposing a hypothesis. The job of the scientist is not to prove something but to disprove something.”

-- Sam Adams and Rachel Abramowitz

PEDRO ALMODOVAR “Broken Embraces”

“I’m going to pick two, not just one. One of the moments is the moment when Penélope [Cruz] arrives a little earlier than she was expected to her home with the man she’s living with and she’s watching “the making of” [film] with the lip reader, and she dubs herself. This addresses a lot of themes in the film because it’s a film about movies, and I’m not only talking about film but also the power of the projected image. Also as a reflection of reality but also, in the case of the making-of film, as a way of stealing images, because we are living at a moment when the market for stolen images is something that proliferates on the Internet. And we also see it in all these kinds of television programs, in magazines, so there’s a huge market for these stolen images.

“And also the fact that the images in themselves have an intention that goes beyond that of the person who took them. So, for example, this man who is spying on his lover, what he achieves is to double the pain of being left. He’s sitting right in the middle of the image of a woman he loves telling him she will abandon him, and then the same woman he loves right behind him telling him the exact same thing, that she will abandon him, so the effect becomes duplicated.

“And one of the other scenes in the film that also supports this theme of the importance of images is the one of the blind film director at the very end where he can almost see through his touch the face of the woman, the last kiss. It’s as if not just his hands and the tips of his fingers but his entire body has become an eye.

“So here is a different kind of meditation, the opposite of what images can do -- in this case, return a lost object, a lost moment, return that dead lover back to life precisely at that moment of the kiss, and this is another capacity that cinema has.”

-- Randee Dawn ROB MARSHALL “Nine”

“The final scene between Guido [ Daniel Day-Lewis] and Luisa [ Marion Cotillard], in the screening room. That’s the moment where he realizes he’s lost everything, and he needs to begin again. It’s the end of the charade, and there’s something about that that’s so revealing. Powerful figures -- when you see them, even today, like Tiger Woods, who are trying to keep the plates spinning and stay above the corruption and lies and keep running until they come crashing down -- that’s the moment. It’s painful and revealing, and probably the most pivotal moment in the movie.”

-- Randee Dawn JANE CAMPION “Bright Star”

“What comes to mind for me is very simple things, like when they’re coming back after their first kiss and doing that little turn-around and freeze thing [as the little sister peeks at them]. That scene, it was just me saying, ‘You know what you’ve got to do, guys, just walk toward the camera.’ And I love how both Ben and Abbie -- they just made it up; it’s their own thing. I love it when it happens like that. I knew at the time that they’d done it that it was great. We had other coverage of that scene, and I thought, ‘It’s not going to get any better than this.’ They’re winning, they’re funny, they’re adorable, they have that feeling of new connection, showing off for each other.”

-- Randee Dawn